ADAM TUDOR-LANE test drives the Mazda 3 

If there’s one genuinely underrated car brand on the market today, it’s Mazda. A small seller in the UK I often wonder how they’re still here, but they should be doing a damn sight better and the latest Mazda 3 enforces that belief.

Without doubt, this incarnation of the 3 is the prettiest hatchback on the market. Looking like a shooting brake with its long swooping rear, the clear lines create something incredibly modern and sleek.

A large C pillar rear end is the only part some may have an issue with, it’s incredibly deep, and the smaller rear passenger window adds to the chunky effect. 

It’s a clean design, compare it to the likes of the old fashioned looking Focus, or the dreary Golf, and you can see how modern this 3 is. 

All Mazda’s drive well, they feel sporty, agile, light and have done for years now. That sweet formula is naturally present in the latest 3.

Steering is sharp and precise with a nice weight to it, making the Mazda fun to handle along B roads when kept in the sweet spot. Body roll is slightly evident, but remains controlled and allows you to corner at pace with confidence.

Ride is on the firmer side for a family hatch, as usual, smaller wheels on lower-spec models may help soak up a bit more of the road imperfections, but the 3 rides just fine for me on the 18” alloys.

Fitted with the 2.0-litre Skyactiv-X engine, power is up at 178 BHP which sounds nippy, especially with a 0-62 MPH time of 8.2 seconds. But you see, Skyactiv-X is all about the miles per gallon, so even though it sounds like a large engine, and the power is decent, it’s almost detuned for efficiency.

Acceleration is linear, there’s no vast globs of torque, and while the delivery of those horses is reliable the 3 seldom feels ‘sporty’. On the plus side, over 200 odd miles of mixed driving and the MPG figure stood at 48, that’s pretty damn good for a 2.0-litre petrol lump.

A tank managed 368 miles, and my total MPG figure came in at a very respectable 43.

Mazda interiors are on par with the likes of Audi and Mercedes. There you go, I said it. I’ve never been particularly impressed or enamoured with either of those German marques for their interior fit and finish. Yes it’s good, and it’s a step up from a VW, Ford or Skoda, but then it should be as you’re paying more for the car.

With Mazda, you don’t. You’ll pay the same but get a far superior, higher-quality interior than what Ford can offer.

Buttons, dials and switches give a resoundingly firm click when interacted with, they all feel solid with a nice weighting. The entire dash top is soft to the poke, and there are splashes of brushed chrome around the vents and on the doors.

There are no touch screen shenanigans as with all Mazda’s, you control everything via the large jog wheel in the centre console. It’s far more straightforward, safer and easier than a touchscreen system and should be lauded for those reasons.

Rear seat legroom is very good for a car in this class, but headroom is on the low side due to that sweeping roofline.

Boot space measures in at 358 litres, so less than a Focus but that can be forgiven overall. However, there is a deep lip that could make getting large, heavier items in and out of the boot trickier.

If I was in the market for a medium-sized hatchback, the Mazda 3 is where my hard earned pounds would go. 

Style, build quality, handling and economy are all ticked. You won’t currently find a better hatchback for your money. Drive a Mazda 3 before you dare even think about a Focus or a Golf.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

Top Speed: 134 MPH

Performance: 0-60 in 8.2 secs

Power: 178 BHP

Economy:  43 MPG (48.7 claimed) 

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